by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
When we talk about some of the better minor league systems in the league the Colorado Rockies isn’t generally one that garners much attention. That’s a mistake, however, as they’ve started to develop a slew of intriguing young hitters who should start making an impact in 2018. While the pitching is a little bit behind, that’s something we’ve come to expect (and they also graduated a few of their more intriguing arms in recent years). Which young hitters are most intriguing? Let’s take a look:
1) Brendan Rodgers – Shortstop
ETA – 2018
Grade – A-
Rodgers has long been viewed as the heir apparent to Troy Tulowitzki, and while Trevor Story’s breakout changed the narrative a few years ago that no longer is a deterrent. Rodgers looked the part in ’17, splitting time between High-A and Double-A:
.336 (125-372), 18 HR, 64 RBI, 64 R, 2 SB
There is no questioning the power, having added 26 doubles and 3 triples, and he also should be able to chip in 6-10 SB annually. The big question is going to be his approach, with a 3.5% walk rate overall and his strikeout rate ballooning at Double-A (14.8% at High-A, 22.0% at Double-A). With a 13.8% SwStr% he could further be exposed, and that will be something to watch. Having just turned 21-years old he does have time to develop, and even if he can just keep it at the current rate it won’t be costly given the power potential.
2) Ryan McMahon – Infielder
ETA – Already Arrived
Grade – B+
McMahon made his MLB debut in ’17, after splitting the year at Double-A (205 PA) and Triple-A (314 PA). The biggest question is where he’s going to fit into the Rockies’ lineup, and having seen time at first base, second base and third base the worst case scenario has him being utilized as a utility player (though there could be a path to playing time at first base, depending on where Ian Desmond is utilized).
He showed an ability to hit the ball hard consistently (26.1% line drive rate) and make enough contact (17.7% strikeout rate courtesy of an 11.6% SwStr%) to hit for a solid average. He’s not a .355 hitter, but .270ish is very much for real. When coupled with the potential to hit 30+ HR in any given season (39 doubles, 4 triples and 20 HR in the minors last year) and steal 8-12 bases (he’s had 11 in each of the past two seasons) the upside is apparent.
3) Colton Welker – Third Baseman
ETA – 2020
Grade – B+
Being a third baseman in an organization that has Nolan Arenado is never going to be viewed as a positive, but Welker played last year as a 19-year old at Single-A so he’s got plenty of time (and could ultimately be used as a key trade chip or at another position). While he hasn’t developed power yet (6 HR in ’17), there’s potential so with maturity and experience he should learn how to tap into it. That looks even more promising after he posted a 9.3% SwStr% last season (leading to a 15.1% strikeout rate).
A groin injury cost him most of the second half, which could help cause others to ignore him. Don’t be surprised if he fully breaks out in 2018.
4) Garrett Hampson – Second Baseman/Shortstop
ETA – 2019
Grade – B
We all know that speed is down across the game, and that’s what Hampson brings to the table. He played last season at 22-years old, so it’s possible he moves quickly, and at High-A he delivered 51 SB (and now has 87 SB in 789 PA since being drafted in 2016).
Even more important is that he paired the speed with a tremendous approach. Last season he posted a 12.8% strikeout rate and 9.3% walk rate, courtesy of a 5.9% SwStr%. Speed + Approach? That could equate to a dynamic top of the order producer. While he’s not going to deliver significant power, he did add 24 doubles, 12 triples and 8 home runs last season meaning he could chip in 10 HR per year. We aren’t going to count on it every year, but it’s possible he pops off a .300/10/40 year at some point.
5) Riley Pint – Right-Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2020
Grade – B
Pint has the stuff to be successful, the question is going to be if he can consistently throw strikes. Pitching at Single-A last season he posted a 5.71 BB/9 after posting a 5.59 BB/9 in Rookie Ball in ’16. His 7.65 K/9 and 10.9% SwStr% aren’t going to blow you away either, but there’s potential there and he displayed an impressive 58.3% groundball rate. If he can start throwing strikes the stuff will start to play up and his stock will rise. We aren’t there yet, though.
6) Ryan Vilade – Shortstop (Grade – B)
7) Peter Lambert – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B-)
8) Sam Hilliard – Outfielder (Grade – B-)
9) Ryan Castellani – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
10) Tyler Nevin – First Baseman/Third Baseman (Grade – C+)
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Top 10 Prospect Lists: